Would a roll by
any other name still taste as sweet? Can a hem, if sewn by a him, be quite
Ah, what’s in a
name? I can stomach a little political correctness from time to time, which is
a good thing given the general state of the culture in which we live. It
doesn’t matter much to me that flight attendants roam the aisles once worked by
stewardesses or that sanitary engineers man brooms previously pushed by
janitors. Other than some of the silliness, my only real complaint is that the
re-namers of things could be a bit less clunky about it.
Case in point:
the newly christened “Family, Career and Community Leaders of America,” FCCLA
for short (if you consider a five-syllable moniker short). The venerated Future
Homemaker’s of America, or FHA, announced the change this month, one they
believe will “resonate with today’s, and tomorrow’s, teens.”
leaves me wondering whether they’ve spoken with an actual teenager lately. By
my observation the labels that draw adolescents tend to sound a lot less
corporate, tags like “Smashing Pumpkins,” “Puff Daddy,” “The Phantom Menace,”
and so on. Maybe they should have considered something edgier, like “Homeys
That Cook,” or “Stitch This, Sucker!”
A FCCLA press
release notes that their “programs now include areas such as financial
management, career planning, the art of balancing family and career, leadership
development and community service.” A little different than the make ‘n bake
image of yore, but the gist of it still seems to be teaching kids to take care
of themselves, gushy 90s fluff aside.
My interest in
this? I am a proud alumnus of the FHA, from an era when male membership was
rare. Today, 45,000 of the organization’s 220,000 members are boys; then, the
four friends and I who joined en masse during our junior year were the first in
our school’s history.
advisor seemed to me a crotchety old throwback who liked the idea of boys in her
club about as much as a fallen souffle. She was convinced that we were just
there to meet girls, proving her to be narrow minded, old-fashioned, and an
impeccable judge of character.
Actually, she probably wasn’t much older than I am now and was really pretty
patient with us once she saw that we weren’t merely there for the girls – heck,
there was food, too. But as I understood it at the time, she did check with the
national organization and found to her chagrin no rule keeping us out. You have
to appreciate grace in defeat, and we did.
Which brings up
an interesting point. An Associated Press story on the name change says that
boys were first admitted in 1973; I have a yearbook proving my membership in
1970. This leaves at least three options: AP is wrong, Mrs. Callamaras got bad
information, or she wasn’t quite as cantankerous as she let on. My bet’s on the
first, but a near-dormant little corner of my heart tugs for the last.
It is also
possible she figured that when the Johnny cakes hit the griddle we’d find some
new way to annoy adults. This was no show-up-and-take-roll,
get-your-name-in-the-yearbook outfit, not under the iron fist of Mrs. C. There
was to be no slack for boys. If you weren’t man (or woman) enough to take the
heat, then get out of the kitchen.
None of us
did. All five stayed through our senior year; four became officers. I served a
term as secretary and lost for president by one vote. But more importantly, we
did learn a thing or two about taking care of ourselves.
raised me with the idea that the main purpose of childhood was to prepare for
the day you have to leave the nest, then leave. She did the bulk of the heavy
lifting, of course, but FHA also helped bring me along. For that alone, the
group, by any name, will for me be as neat.
I still think
they ought to hip it up a little, though. Anyone for “Scary Spice: The Club?”
© 1997 – 2002 Brent Morrison